Things started with David Moffett. He wanted a way to get to know his neighbors in the Club Forest subdivision better.
Club Forest had several community clubs and social events through which women could meet, he said, but nothing similar for the men. “The women all knew each other, but none of the guys knew each other,” he said.
Moffett grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana. and went to Tulane, so he had a fondness for Mardi Gras, the traditional no-holds-barred party on the final day or days before Lent, a season of fasting for Christians.
He thought Club Valley Drive, the main drag through his neighborhood in the Historic Brookhaven area of Buckhead, looked like a good place for a Mardi Gras parade. Why Mardi Gras? “Why not?” he replied.
Mardi Gras parties and parades usually are staged by groups called krewes. Moffett and neighbor John Greiner launched the Krewe du Foret to bring Mardi Gras home. Greiner, it turned out, had a pirate costume, so the new krewe adopted a pirate theme and started putting together a parade.
That was eight years, and eight parades, ago. Krewe du Foret now claims 50 or more members, all men, and puts on two to three social events a year, its members said. And it’s brought together men of Club Forest around a common interest. “I wouldn’t know any of these guys if we didn’t do something like this,” said Moffett, a 55-year-old banker who wore a Tulane cap and New Orleans Saints’ jersey with his pirate suit.. “It’s a great way to get our neighborhood together.”
On the last Sunday in February, about 25 to 30 members of the krewe, maybe more, donned pirate costumes and joined in the Mardi Gras parade on Club Valley Drive. Some had grown beards just for the event and some wore elaborate costumes with thigh-high boots or fancy jackets and hats. “It’s a good experience to dress up like a pirate,” Mark Hanna, 46, a physician had said the day before when he joined a dozen or so members of the krewe to rebuild the floats that are stored at Moffett’s house during the winter.
Most of the pirates in the parade rode on one of three colorful, pirate flag-decked floats built on top of trailers and pulled by pickups. Some rode atop an antique fire truck, while others walked alongside the string of vehicles, which included a convertible carrying the krewe’s queen for the day, resident Judy Jones. A New Orleans-style band called 2nd Line Atlanta played from one of the floats. Families lined the street and caught beads the pirates tossed from the floats as they rolled along.
Marc Rosenkoetter stood out among the parading pirates. He walked on stilts and towered above the crowd in his pirate getup as he tossed Mardi Gras beads to clamoring kids. “It’s for the kids,” the 40-year-old management consultant said of the party as he helped decorate floats the day before the parade. “Honestly, it is.”
Besides, he said, it helps give Club Forest an identity. “It really pulls the neighborhood together,” he said. “It sets the neighborhood apart. In a world of fences and walls and security cameras, its nice to have a neighborhood that can come together for something like this.”
Lori Hicks waited in her driveway to see her husband parade past. She was joined by her mother-in-law, Charlotte Hicks of St. Marys, and sister-in-law, Shannon Hicks of Chattanooga. “It’s my favorite day of the year in Club Forest,” she said. “I think it’s incredible that they pull this off and pull it together for everybody on the cul-de-sac.”
Why is it her favorite day? She thought the question over for a moment. “Maybe it’s my favorite day because the men are in charge and the families have so much fun,” she said. “That’s why. I just figured it out.”
It took just 10 to 15 minutes for the revelers to pass. The parade ended at a cul-de-sac at one end of the block, where the pirates and their families and friends could dance and eat gumbo at a neighborhood party.
Bill Selvey, who’s 58 and said he works as a head-hunter for doctors, has lived in his home in Club Forest for 26 years and has taken part in every Mardi Gras parade. He, too, calls Maris Gras parade day his favorite day of the year. “You dress up like a pirate and throw Moon Pies and beads to people,” he said. “Free beer. Free gumbo. What’s not to like?”